Since the dawn of mankind on Earth the planet has changed so dramatically, caused both by Mother Nature’s relentless energy to twist, turn and flip the world’s tectonic plates, volcanoes, skies and oceans, and humans’ insatiable demand for resources. So often we hear that the only constant thing in the world is change, therefore those who survive are the ones who are able to change and adapt to new challenges.
However another constant thing in life seems to often be overlooked by most of us: the battle between good and evil. History proves how the two eternal forces always balance each other out, like yin and yang.
Germany is not always known for its enviable advancement in technology, supported by sound and efficient economy, but many remembers it as a country where one of the world’s greatest evils had painted a very dark chapter in history. Iraq, on the other hand, was not always a perilous and unstable land. At the time when Europe was engulfed in inquisitions, Baghdad produced progressive-thinking scholars who introduced new thoughts to the world like algebra and perfected ancient wisdom and sciences which would later provide a strong foundation for Renaissance movements in Europe.
There is no guarantee that things would remain at one side forever. There is no guarantee that a good man would always be good, and a bad man would remain so for the rest of his life.
The same philosophy had inspired the Balinese to create a dance richly loaded with symbolism of the eternal battle between good and evil: the Barong dance. The mythical beast – often takes shape of a lion among other less-known forms of a tiger, a boar and a dragon – is considered a protective spirit of the island, a tradition dating back from the pre-Hindu period. A Barong is usually decorated with gilded leaves, fragments of small mirrors and voluminous dried ijuk (palm fibre) to create a formidable figure representing virtue.
On the other hand Rangda is attributed to evil spirits, instilling fear and inciting chaos among Balinese with her menacing appearance – a demonic figure with sharp nails and a long unfurled tongue. Her origin can be traced back to the time when King Udayana from the House of Warmadewa ruled Bali in the 10th century.
During his rule, the Balinese king married a Javanese princess, Gunapriyadharmapatni, from the Medang Kingdom – the same kingdom which left magnificent 9th century temples spread across Java as its legacies. The marriage instigated suspicions from the Balinese royal court upon their foreign consort queen’s ambition to include Bali in the realm of the Javanese kingdom.
Gunapriyadharmapatni, later known as Mahendradatta, introduced the worship of Durga, a goddess in Shaktism school of Hinduism often associated with death, in her new land. King Udayana himself later condemned his wife for practicing black magic and banished her from his kingdom. Enraged, humiliated and disappointed, Mahendradatta then summoned all the evil spirits on the island to avenge her and kill everyone in the kingdom. Rangda, Old Javanese for widow, since then has always been associated with evil.
The Barong dance portrays the battle between Barong and Rangda including sequences where the demon queen relentlessly attempts to turn people away from virtue. The finale shows Balinese men with their keris – a traditional dagger – attempting to defeat Rangda, only to meet their own demise for the evil queen was much too powerful. Barong eventually resurrects them and expels Rangda, forcing her to flee and move to the forests on the island. Peace returns to the village, but the mighty Barong does not kill the demon queen, epitomizing a reality in the world where there will always be virtue and evil, constantly battling each other.